D.C. parents who left children during wine tasting appear in court

WASHINGTON — The D.C. parents charged with cruelty to their children made a court appearance to begin the process leading up to their trial, which prosecutors are categorizing as a domestic violence case.

Dressed in a blue overcoat with her hair pulled back in a bun, 45-year-old Jennie Chang sat in the back of the courtroom with 41-year-old Christophe Lucas until they were called before the judge. Neither entered a plea in response to the individual charges of attempted, second-degree cruelty to children.

Police say the couple left their 1- and 2-year-old children in the car while they attended a wine tasting at Ris restaurant in Foggy Bottom.

As the couple left court, they wrapped scarves around their faces and wore caps and sunglasses. Lucas’ attorney, Sean Broderick Murphy spoke briefly saying, “they are loving and dedicated parents and we’ll talk about that in court.”

Judge Jose Lopez set their next court date for March 6.

Before his arrest, Lucas told officers the toddlers weren’t alone long and that he was watching them. He pulled a cellphone out of the car that displayed an ongoing call to Chang that had lasted 58 minutes, court records say.

Lucas also told police that the children had been asleep when he went inside Ris restaurant.

A restaurant employee and exterior surveillance video confirmed that the couple, who live a few blocks away, had been at the restaurant for almost an hour when police arrived.

Child Protective Services took the children into custody.

In a separate case last October, Lucas was charged with a misdemeanor after police say he struck the side of a car with an empty stroller. He told officers the car was turning when it was his turn to walk. The case was dismissed.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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